Californication — 4 Comments

  1. It’s wonderful to have your observations of of the Twin Cities. I agree with your wife. As a professional tour guide, I often make the distinction between the two cities: Minneapolis is about progress and St. Paul is about preservation. Minneapolis may have started on that journey when the downtown buildings were set on fire from exploding flour mills. No kidding. The resulting fires forced them to rebuild. St. Paul is primarily a residential city. It’s largest source of revenues have come from the many colleges and universities that are in the area. We have a highly educated workforce but there has always been a level of awareness of neighborhood houses as related to campus sprawl. The colleges have largely been extremely cooperative with the residents. Generally speaking people who wanted enormous McMansions would be out in third ring suburbs. The city lots generally don’t allow people to build houses that big. Clearly, that’s changing.

  2. Thanks, Michelle! I have been reading up on the nuances of teardowns and overbuilding (or perhaps it should be termed uber-building?). It’s a knotty issue for sure. No-one really wants to circumscribe the rights of property owners; and court precedent in the US leans strongly in favor of giving those owners a free hand with their property. The tools available to limit what can be done to a property are few. Zoning is a blunt instrument. Building codes can help, but they can be worked around in any number of ways by a determined builder. Designation of a neighborhood as historic offers the strongest protections. But is there actually anything historic about Mac-Groveland (e.g.)? Charming, yes; inviting, certainly; but not particularly historic.

  3. The same thing has been happening in my former neighborhood of Concord, MA — I didn’t realize it was called Californication. The house next door was a modest one-story home where a family with 3 active boys were raised. When they sold the property, the new owners doubled (!) the size of the house for their 2-child family, clearing trees that had provided our privacy. All we could do was ask, “Why?” The answer, of course, was, “Because they can.”

  4. Californication makes more economic sense, alas, in places like Concord, Lexington, or Edina: there’s more spread between average property values (high and ascending) and the price for an old, smaller house sitting on that valuable land. What baffles me is seeing teardowns in a relatively stable market and a modest neighborhood like Mac-Groveland, whose appeal is mostly in the aesthetics and the quality of life, and not in speculative real estate.

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